Looking for Love (Online)
Ack! Valentine's Day is here, and you're without a date! What to do?
I used to get a few single friends together, drink champagne, and watch Sex in the City. You can opt to embrace the solitude, either through doing something that only you like doing (folding origami stuff), or by listening to Mary J. Blige and weeping your eyes out. Or, you can post a personal ad, and get yourself a date.
Many consumer-focused groups and other websites have already rated online dating sites. I don't feel like anyone who writes these articles has actually DATED, much less dated online, so I'm here to offer my perspective on a few of the top sites.
1. Craigslist - Free
I started looking for love online when I lived in the Bay Area in 2000. Craigslist was still limited to that one metropolitan area, and was largely used by techies and start-up types, which meant that everyone there was more or less, educated, literate, and fairly trustworthy. Unfortunately, the general population soon discovered Craigslist, which means that personals ads often read like this:
Looking for Affectrionate, atrractive and down-to-earth Princess - 40
I drive, I have a 2 dogs,2cats,fish and a bird the never stops talking he is funny. Any ways if u want to know more just ask.
Despite the fact that the Craigslist dating pool is now extremely diluted by illiterate mouth-breathers, there are some good people to be found on there. But you have to search. Now is actually a good time — even if you are boycotting Valentine's Day, you'll find that the number of personal ads on Craigslist spikes around V-Day. Go ahead and peruse the site and see what you can find.
Craigslist is also great because you don't have to create an account to find a date — you can just reply to other people's ads. Most importantly, and the reason why I discussed it first, Craigslist costs nadda. You can't get cheaper than free. Don't believe me? Post an ad offering a perfectly good, one-year-old, flat panel, 17" television set for $50 and see how many people offer you $3 for it.
One tip for all online dating: Create a nice, anonymous email account that does not include your real name or any personal info. There are some crazies out there.
Time investment: Considerable, there's a lot of wading to do.
Hand-holding: Nope, you're on your own.
Grievances: Some weird, weird people out there.
Exclusivity: God, no.
2. Gay/Lesbian Singles Online - Mostly Free
Okay, I haven't used this site, but they seem to be fairly trustworthy — they won't spam you or sell your info to anyone else. There are plenty of listings, which is good, because other sites have a real dearth of gay postings. Craigslist, in particular, is a difficult place for lesbians to find love - many cities just don't have that many postings, and the ones that do don't share photo. Gay Singles Online and its gal-only counterpart, Lesbian Singles Online, offer some hope for the Sapphic searcher.
Cost: They claim to be free, but seem to offer paid premium memberships.
Time investment: Medium — not as bad as eHarmony.
Grievances: None from me, but some experienced online daters might want to provide feedback.
Exclusivity: It would probably help if you were some flavor of queer.
3. Match.com and Yahoo Personals
These, I totally avoid. Once I learned that both companies have been accused of sending false emails to people looking for love, I abandoned the idea of using them. Taking advantage of the lovelorn isn't okay. Homey don't roll like that.
4. eHarmony - Not Cheap
eHarmony is famous for using really long, drawn-out surveys and Jungian archetypes to determine your best match. When I first signed up for eHarmony out of curiosity (could they really match me with someone good?), I was informed that there was no one within 100 miles of my home that would be even close to a good match for me. I sort of figured that that meant that I was either impossible to deal with (maybe) or that eHarmony had a really small dating pool.
Turned out that the latter was correct, because when I signed up again a few years later, I found that there were dozens of men that apparently matched me in every conceivable aspect of my personality. Which was kind of good, but also kind of frightening. eHarmony is really aggressive about informing you that you have a new match, and after a while, I found that I had to narrow my definition of "acceptable" to slow down the onslought of available men.
I never actually met anyone off of eHarmony, and closed the account when I became overwhelmed by the wave of communicating men. I felt cheated, first because eHarmony is really expensive, and second, because I had spent hours going through all of the surveys and questions and explanations, and I never really managed to go on a date. I can't blame eHarmony for this. But I can blame for the whopping price, the miselading emails (the ones that tell you to come back for only $19.99 a month, but negelect to mention that that's only if you sign up for another 12 months).
Cost: Not frugal — roughly $50/month, less per month if you buy more months.
Time investment: Intense. Many questions to answer.
Hand-holding: So much so that you might forget how to feed yourself without eHarmony there.
Grievances: Mainly the price, but also the fact that founder of eHarmony has, in the past, beeny against same-sex coupling.
Exclusivity: Yes — the people on here make enough money to spend at least $40/month looking for a mate, and you are matched based on a very extensive list of factors, so you are less likely to get stuck on a date with someone who has an entirely different value system than you do. Also, someone who can afford hundreds of dollars per year in online dating expenses probably has most of their own teeth. Still in their mouth.
There are many specialized sites out there that cater to every type, and new ones are popping up every day. Explore your options! Date! Love! Go now!
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